Frank DeFilippo: The Trump Books — and the Book of Barr

Attorney General William Barr. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Labor Day is traditionally the kick-off for the final two months of a presidential campaign, especially in a referendum year when an incumbent must either make the case for reelection based on a four-year performance record or prepare for an exit interview.

For President Trump, instead of a 50-state rockets-red-glare showcase launch of a confident incumbent, the giant sucking sound is Trump and the grifters around him being pulled into the great swirl of public accountability as the accusations and failures continue to pile on.

As if to support what meets the eye as well as boggles the mind, the polls in hand and money in the bank reveal former vice president Joe Biden ahead in all the measures – leading in many states and at least tied in the decisive swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The GOP says it has overspent and run out of cash while Trump says he’ll self-fund, if necessary, and other tales from the bankruptcy king who won’t reveal his tax returns.

A backward glance shows that it was a week like no other, and one that Democrats could not have contrived or anticipated. The one possible bright spot, considered so probably only by Trump and those poltroons around him, was his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This in itself is a cosmic joke. Trump is the nominal leader of a nation divided by war within itself and he’s nominated for a peace prize?

Frank
Frank A. DeFilippo

And as if to underline the irony of the peace prize nomination, the war on the streets of America has accelerated in recent weeks, especially in Portland, Ore., where protests have well passed 100 consecutive nights and Trump has increased his use of the words “thugs” and “thuggery” to describe those demanding an end to police brutality while the indiscriminate shooting of Blacks continues. Trump has unleashed a war among his own people, in their own nation.

Nonetheless, Trump’s Labor Day kickoff began with The Atlantic’s blockbuster story about the president’s antipathy for those who served in the military, especially the war-dead whom he is alleged to have described as “suckers” and “losers.” Though denied and disparaged by the Trump White House, the story was supported by independent accounts that appeared in other news outlets such as The Washington Post and the Associated Press.

Continuing, a whistleblower, Brian Murphy, of the Department of Homeland Security, complained that he was ordered to stop intelligence reports on Russian interference in the 2020 election because it “made the president look bad,” according to The Washington Post. Murphy stated further that he refused to tailor the reports to fit Trump’s narrative.

Then, in quick order, another handful of books appeared over a brief span of several days, adding to the reference library of damning literature already judging Trump and the shortcomings of the people around him in what has become a major industry.

“Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President,” by Michael S. Schmidt, of The New York Times, ties a great big red bow around Trump’s implicit connections to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, and goes several important steps beyond where the Mueller Report stopped. In case you’re wondering what grip Putin has on Trump, Schmidt stops short of specific answers but leads the reader to wonder even more.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, added his expected apologia cum re-telling, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” to the race to the bestseller lists, with little that is not already in the public domain except a new string of colorful names that he’s coined for his former employer. Trump has a few names for Cohen, too, including his all-purpose put-down, “loser,” and the pernicious mob executioner’s song, “rat.”

Next, along comes “Compromised,” former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s version of his fall from grace, along with that of FBI director James Comey, after sniffing around the edges of the Trump campaign’s connections – again – to Russia.

Strzok worked with Robert Mueller’s investigative team but was let go when it was discovered that he was exchanging emails with another agent with whom he was having an affair. Strzok, like the other chroniclers, has some inventive new names for Trump.

Not to be overlooked, even if not read, is Tom Burgis’ “Kleptopia,” which places Trump smack in the middle if a dizzying roundelay of a ga-zillion dollar enterprise of money-laundering that washes, rinses, dries and converts illicit money into luxury condos, yachts and other baubles and showpieces – again with the ever-present connections to Russians abroad and at home in the Moscow-Mafia precincts of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach.

But the big-daddy of all questions is this: Just why in the hell would a self-proclaimed genius of Trump’s self-important standing talk to Bob Woodward – in 18 separate interviews, audiotaped, no less, and then complain when the use of the material was timed for Woodward’s discretion and the release of his latest book, “Rage”?

Trump and his apologists, ever on the defensive, now argue, after the fact, that the explosive material about the coronavirus pandemic that Woodward sat on for eight months should have been released at the time the interviews took place. This, of course, is little more than the Trumpster’s customary deflective shield. To be fair, Woodward himself is under fire for withholding information that many now consider a threat to the public health.

Trump acknowledged to Woodward that he deliberately played down the seriousness of the COVID-19 health emergency to avoid a public panic.

“I just want to add, I think the one thing nobody really knew about this virus was how contagious it was. It’s so incredibly contagious. And nobody knew that,” Trump was quoted as telling Woodward.

Still, the question remains: Why would Trump talk to Woodward to begin with?

Most unseemly, and even sleazy, perhaps, is the behavior of William Barr, the attorney general who has become Trump’s personal consigliere and Roy Cohn wannabe. Barr appears to have turned the Justice Department into massive law firm with a single client – Trump.

In the New York rape case of journalist E. Jean Carroll, Barr has asked the courts to substitute the U.S. government for Trump as the defendant in her defamation suit. The twisted logic driving the maneuver is that Trump has denied raping Carroll, saying she was “not my type.”

This, according to Barr and his DOJ lawyers, constitutes an official statement of office and thereby gives the president immunity from prosecution under a clever little piece of legislation called the Westfall Statute. This, in effect, gives sovereign immunity to public officials when performing their jobs. (n.b. Maryland elected officials, and those in many other states, have similar protections.)

Barr’s Tony Soprano logic follows: The alleged rape is said to have occurred before Trump was president, in the mid-1990s. But he denied the event and said “she’s not my type” in 2019, during his presidency, and therefore is immune from prosecution.

Got it? Assessing a woman’s rape-worthiness is now classified as part of a president’s official duties, according to the book of Barr.

If the sleight-of-hand works, it puts taxpayers on the hook for the cost of the case and, at best, makes the whole dirty mess go away. Trump walks.

In the interest of avoiding exhaustion, we’ll forgo another painstaking discussion of how Trump has messed up the Postal Service.

But worthy of a brief mention is Trump’s high-handed attempt to force a temporary pay raise by suspending the payroll tax. Workers, however, would have to repay the money next year.

But look at the dark side of the deal. If Trump is re-elected, this might be a long-range play to make the payroll tax cut permanent as a way of undermining the fund that supports Social Security and Medicare that could threaten the future of the popular programs for the elderly.

That was the week that was, not exactly as Trump would have liked, but plenty for voters to think about as mail-in ballots begin to arrive.